Queen for a Day is a novel-in-stories set in New York City, which portrays with a remarkable blend of poignancy and humor the stages of a mother’s denial and final acceptance of her son’s autism and her battle with the public school system to get him a proper education. Today, we welcome Queen for a Day author Maxine Rosaler for a guest post.
For a long time I was ambivalent about libraries, having wasted so much time in college trying to study in them. College (all three that I jumped around to) was really wasted on me, but being possessed of a Puritanical spirit that was constantly at war with my inability to pay attention to anything but my own thoughts and desires, I was determined to try to study and the library was always where I tried to do that.
Then, after college, when I belonged to the 92nd Street Y, I would go to the terrific little library there and I loved discovering writers I had never heard of before, like Anita Brookner and Russell Hoban. Around that same time, when I was in late twenties, I remember once flipping through rows of capitalized index cards in those great-looking heavy wooden card catalogs at the main branch of the New York Public Library, thinking that it would be fun to be a detective. It was the only moment in my life that I can recall ever seriously contemplating being anything but a writer. That moment passed quickly when I realized that I could never do it: I knew it was inevitable that I would end up being thrown into a moral quandary about nailing a suspect. (I still think I would have been a great detective.)
And then there were all the years I used to spend in the Columbia University library. My father went to Columbia, and there was something so great about wandering around the same rooms he had wandered when he was a student there. I loved the ancient look of everything: the marble floors and the wooden tables and desks, and those long winding staircases, with their thick, oak banisters and the dead quiet of the endless rows of stacks of books, some with the edges of their delicate pages turned brown. Now, if I ever have the time to wander the stacks, I often wish that I could have a computer chip implanted in my brain so that I could possess all of that knowledge. At the Columbia Journalism Library, I would make lists of literary journals to send my stories. And once, when I was working as a freelance copy editor, the librarian lent me a copy of Elements of Style.
Also, my best friend, Pidge, has been a librarian for forty years. And I really get a kick out of that. Last but not least, I absolutely love the mere fact that an institution like a public library exists. I love going to the library now, knowing that I can find anything I want to read there. Sadly, I also realize that in the future libraries might be the only place where people will be able to experience the wonderful physicality of books, with their paper pages that exude those wonderful, distinctive odors that have been around since Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press.
Thanks Maxine! Be sure to check out Queen for a Day, on sale June 5.